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Mystery Investor Intervenes as AVFM Again Ups Cordiant Stake

News, 03 July 2003

Many in the ad industry are puzzled as to the name of the game Active Value Fund Management is playing?

Already the largest single investor in Cordiant Communications with a stake large enough to scupper WPP Group’s agreed takeover plan, AVFM announced Wednesday it had bought yet more shares in Cordiant.

Over one million more to be precise – lifting its stake to 27.17%. And paying £0.0226 per share more than the current market price of £0.0233. Two point seven pence above the £0.0233 on offer from WPP.

The key to AVFM’s otherwise inexplicable continued stakebuilding in Cordiant may lie in the small print of a statement issued Monday by WPP: that its offer is final and will not be sweetened. Unless a competing bid for Cordiant emerges. AVFM needs to raise its holding by just 2.83% to reach the magic level of 30% – when under UK takeover law it must launch a full bid.

But Wednesday evening French bank CCF Banque Priveé revealed it had bought 2% of Cordiant’s shares at £0.0285 each on behalf of a client, Madame Nahed Ojjeh.

WAMN has discovered that Ojjeh, a Paris-domiciled Syrian multimillionairess chess fanatic, has close links to London based Einstein Group, an AIM-quoted multimedia company which in 2001 posted a turnover of £3.01 million. Founded in September 1999, its stated objective is “to establish a worldwide multimedia brand dedicated to science, technology and lifelong learning”.

Chief executive officer Steve Timmins, a former head of department within ITV and senior producer at the BBC, is the largest single shareholder by far with 8.07% of Einstein’s equity.

Non-executive chairman John Sanderson (with 0.43%) is an independent consultant with extensive contacts in the radio, TV, advertising and marketing services and new media industries.

Another director/shareholder (0.7%) is Derek Wyatt, Labour MP for Sittingbourne, Kent who also serves as a non-executive member of the board.

Could this trio - together with AVFM and the exotic Mme Ojjeh - be about to spring the surprise of the decade on the global ad village?

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff